Category Archives: Podcasts 2019

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24 – 30 September 2019

nicholasIRevolutionsPodcast continues on, and Mike Duncan’s project of following through different revolutions across the globe and over time is really bearing fruit as he is able to draw connections between one revolution and the other. In Episode 10.13 Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality he looks at Czar Nicholas I and his repressive response to revolutionary fervour both in the 1820s (when the whole of Europe was nervous) and in 1848 when revolution emerged in many countries. His response of Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality certainly has resonances in Russian history today. Then in Episode 10.14 The Tsar Liberator, the Crimean War exposes the rot at the core of Russian society, and moves on to the new Czar Alexander who finally bites the bullet and deals with the Emancipation of the Serfs. I found lots of parallels between the Emancipation of the Serfs in Russia and the Emancipation of Slaves in the British Empire- the need to ‘buy off’ the property owners and the burdens placed on the ‘liberated’ people.

Duolingo The podcast Autostop en Afghanistán (Hitchhiking in Afghanistan) has been hanging around on my phone for a while. It’s about an Argentinian travel writer who decides to hitchhike through Afghanistan, as a counter-narrative to the rhetoric of the war on terror. Did you know that one of the Spanish terms for ‘hitchhike’ is ‘viajar a dedo’ which literally means ‘travel by finger’? Mixed English and Spanish, with a transcript available – and there’s always Google Translate.

Soul Search.  Simon Schama is one of my favourite narrative historians, and his voice is immediately recognizable in this podcast Simon Schama’s Story of the Jews, recorded in coversation with Paul Holdengraber (never heard of him!) at the Sydney Writers Festival. His second book of a planned trilogy of the story of the Jews, Belonging,  has been released recently.

Background Briefing. Another podcast that’s been on the phone, the podcast Welfare to Worse caused a bit of a fuss when it was released in August of this year. It’s about the Parents Next progam, and the unhealthy relationship between private providers, who are paid for keeping people ‘on the books’ and Centrelink, who are happy to shift onto those providers the onus for deciding whether people (particularly single mothers) need to meet interview, work and training requirements to keep their government payments. Having responsibility for eight children, and homeless is no guarantee that a private company won’t deem you suitable for ‘a program’. Meanwhile, the government keeps parroting “the best form of welfare is a job”.

Earshot. We’re aware of deep fakes as a political danger, but there’s another form of fakery where an image of a  woman’s head (and its nearly always a woman) is photoshopped onto pornographic material, to make it seem as if she is a porn star. This happened to Noelle Martin in My Fake Naked Body: one woman’s story of image-based abuse. She doesn’t know who is creating these images, and as she has found, it is almost impossible to remove them.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 September 2019

Letters of Love in World War 2. Have I mentioned that I’m really enjoying this series? In Episode 2 North Africa: Lost Messages, Cyril is sailing off to Egypt, but Olga doesn’t really know quite where he is. The mails are interrupted, and there are whole weeks of silences.  In Episode 3 Siege of Tobruk: Battlefields and Reality,  Cyril writes Olga a long,18 page letter after the battle of Tobruk. It’s surprising that it got through the censors, but I guess the battle was over by then and it didn’t matter what information he gave. His long letter, full of battle, is interwoven with her gentle letters about life back home, shifting house, just getting on with things. I’m not surprised  by their anti-facism, but they are both rather radical and even pro-communist.

RevolutionspodcastEpisode 10.12 The Decembrists led an uprising against the Tsar as part of the revolutionary ferment during the 1820s. But it didn’t go well. Mike Duncan has been doing these Revolutions podcasts for years and years (literally) and now it’s all paying off as the connections between the different revolutions become clear.

Outlook (BBC) A year ago Brazil’s National Museum burnt down.  In Keeping my country’s burned past alive, one of the anthropologists talks about the loss of artefacts relating to the indigenous Wari’ people, although fortunately she had digitized many of the voice recordings that were destroyed. She, and her fellow museum workers, decided to get tattoos to mark their grief at the loss of the museum.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 September 2019

Letters of Love in WW2  I’ve only just started listening to this, but it’s very touching. After their parents have died, adult children and grandchildren find a cache of letters in the attic. They are the letters that Cyril and Olga sent to each other after Cyril went off to fight WW2, having only been married three months. They are beautifully read, and there’s a short commentary from the family at the end of episode 1. Episode 1 is around July 1941 when Cyril sails towards Egypt. [I didn’t know that women were offered 50% off the cost of joining their husbands at war]. Cyril, in particular, writes beautifully.

Lectures in History. You know- I somehow avoided doing American History the whole way through high school, and I know more about Canadian colonial history than I do about American colonial history. Colonial America before the Revolution seems to me to be a fairly evenhanded explanation.

Money Box (BBC). I’m listening to a money program?? (I’m doing a talk about Work at my UU fellowship- that’s the only reason why.) Universal Basic Income – Can It Work? is a panel discussion about Universal Basic Income- how does it differ from current and historical provision? What have the trials found? Can it work?

Revolutionspodcast  Episode 10.11 War and Peace picks up at the death of Catherine the Great, just before Napoleon came on the scene.  Her son Czar Paul came to a bad end and Czar Alexander enters the picture. The podcast gives a fascinating account of the Napoleonic Wars from Russia’s point of view- did you know that Czar Alexander captured Paris? (I didn’t)

IMG_20190220_094158_smallBBC Assignment. . Colombia’s Kamikaze Cyclists is about young teenagers who career down the steep hills surrounding Medellin in Colombia on specially modified bikes without any safety gear. These kids live in the slums that cling to the sides of the mountains surrounding Medellin.



Start the Week (BBC) Jared Diamond has a new book out – Upheavals: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change. In it, he argues that there are parallels between an individual facing a crisis, and a nation facing a crisis. As he did in ‘Collapse’, he uses different societies to illustrate his thesis. In this panel discussion of his book, Jared Diamond and national crisis,  there’s quite a bit of talk about Brexit and Trump, but he also talks about Finland and Meiji Japan. And little old Australia gets a look-in too.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-7 September 2019

Podcasts about Snyder’s Road to Unfreedom. Having finished reading Timothy Snyder’s book The Road to Unfreedom, I listened to three podcasts where Snyder is talking about his book. Boy- the guy can talk! Certainly he’s going over the ideas that he has already written in his book, but he can talk articulately about tangential issues as well. He comes over as more optimistic in person than I felt he was on the page. On April 9 2018 he spoke at the Free Library of Philadelphia  and answered, not always successfully,  some interesting questions. He made a particular effort to speak about Russia, Ukraine, Europe and America all within the same frame.  It’s notable that he emphasized that the Mueller investigation, which had not reported at that time, would be about the rule of law and not other issues.  In Dan Snow’s History Hit, he speaks more as a historian, about the role of history in reclaiming the importance of time. Finally, Snyder is interviewed in a program titled “Liberal Democracy’s Misplaced Faith in the Future” on Trumpcast, which is a more blatantly politically partisan (i.e. anti-Trump) than the other programs, and this interview is far more U.S. oriented

Rear Vision (ABC) I listened to two podscasts that really tie in with current events. Trump, Greenland and the longer tale of American real estate talks about previous times when America has purchased land – from the French with the Louisiana Purchase, from the Russians when they bought Alaska, from Spain when they bought Florida, and Arizona and New Mexico from the Mexican as part of the Gadsden Purchase. However, in recent years America has been able to exert hegemony through the construction of bases without having to buy the whole country – some 500 of themacross the world. It is suggested that Trump’s plan for purchasing Greenland betrays his real estate developer tendencies, rather than a strategic plan.

The second podcast  Kashmir in lockdown was about Kashmir and India’s revocation of Article 370. The two academics here tell of their perspective of this action from the point of view of their own country (Pakistan or India) although they do have quite a few commonalities.  I’m uneasy about Indian assertiveness here, especially with two nuclear-armed countries.

Rough Translation Two good ones here. DIY Mosul is about the phenomenon in post-war Mosul (in Iraq) where people started volunteering to clean up the city- something almost unheard of after so many years of war. Yet an act that seems so benign wasn’t necessarily perceived that way by the post-war Iraqi government.

We Don’t Say That is about language in France -in particular, language for talking about blackness. There are two related stories here: one about a woman of French/American/Congolese origin who is trying to get a particularly offensive French term changed, and running up against the strict official controls on the French language. The second story is about claiming the word “black” in French, in a culture where race is not spoken about (even though it might operate powerfully). Really interesting.

Saturday Extra. Continuing with her series on Latin America, Geraldine Doogue talks with Gustavo Flores-Macias from Cornell University about the militarization of the Southern Border of Mexico/Guatemala, at the behest of the United States in Mexico Under Pressure. Mexico is beefing up its National Guard, an organization introduced in 2006 to deal with gangs, but which coincided with a higher murder rate in Mexico. Now the National Guard is controlling the Southern Border in a political ‘deal’ where U.S. chooses not to impose tariffs yet, as long as Mexico stops migrants coming through.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-31 August 2019

In Our Time (BBC) This episode The Gordon Riots has been hanging around on my phone since May this year. These anti-Catholic riots were triggered, the speakers suggest, by the French-British wars in Canada during 1780, which put the status of Catholics in British territories under the spotlight. Whipped up by Lord Gordon, head of the Protestant Association,  these riots reached their peak on 7th June 1780 as troops fired on the crowd outside the Bank of England. At a time when we’re debating legislation about religious discrimination, these riots started off as a protest against the relaxation of discrimination against Catholics under the Popery Act of 1698. Just saying.

Heart and Soul (BBC) Long time readers will know that I’ve spent some time in Nairobi, and so I was interested to listen to this podcast Religion and Climate Change in Nairobi, recorded in the Nairobi National Museum (I’ve been there!) Kenya is a very religious country and in this symposium, people of faith explore how that affects their response to climate change. I was interested to learn that in one language spoken in Nairobi, there is no single word for ‘climate change’, using instead a whole sentence like ‘things are getting hotter and nobody knows what to do’. Some speakers spoke about conspicuous consumption as a visible symbol that God approves of you, especially amongst self-appointed preachers. Some of the accents are fairly heavy, so you need to concentrate.

Revolutionspodcast After a lengthy introduction (8 episodes) into Marx and Bakunin, Mike Duncan finally embarks on the Russian Revolution. Episode 10.9 The Third Rome is a very quick skate over centuries of Russian history, up to the Romanovs. Episode 10.10 The Russian Empire looks at Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. So, 1000 years of Russian history in just two episodes. That’s the way to do it.


By michael clarke stuff – Tristan Albatross, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Offtrack (ABC) Gough Island is in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, 3000 km from South Africa and 3000 km from South America. It is a nesting place for birds- most particularly albatrosses- and is overrun by mice. This rather distressing episode  Where Giants Nest highlights the critically endangered status of the Tristan Albatross. You can find out more about Gough Island and its proposed mouse eradication program at

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 August 2019

The Documentary (BBC) The Spy of Raspberry Falls is the real life story of the American CIA agent Kevin Mallory, who was sentenced to 20 years jail for selling state secrets to the Chinese.  A former student of Brigham Young University, this member of the Latter Day Saints gradually started making mistakes, leading to his unmasking by the FBI.

Saturday Extra (ABC) Over the next few weeks, Saturday Extra is going to focus on Latin America. This week it is Venezuela, paralysed nation, where La Trobe Uni lecturer, Raul Sanchez-Urribarri who is Venezuelan, gives a picture of day-to-day life in Venezuela today.  You can read an article that he wrote in 2017 about everyday life here too. I can only imagine that things have become even worse.

Earshot (ABC) The Western Australian state government has formally committed to seeking World Heritage status for the Barrup Peninsula, but in a remarkable balancing act, also wants to continue industrial development. Singing the Stones: Can Industry and Ancient Rock Art co-exist on the Barrup Peninsula , I’d have to say no- I don’t think so. I hadn’t realized that when the earliest rock art was created here, the sea was over 100 km away. Nor did I realize that the original owners were wiped out in the Flying Foam massacre, meaning that the battle for Barrup has had to be taken up by neighbouring traditional owners.

Rear Vision (ABC) This podcast starts off with Jared Kushner’s Peace to Prosperity plan (that sort of died, didn’t it?) It then backtracks to the King Crane Commission: America’s First Intervention in the Middle East, which took place in 1919 to inform the Conference of Versailles immediately following WWI. King and Crane were two American commissioners in what we would now call a focus-group inquiry. They were supposed to be joined by British and French investigators as well, but Britain and France had their own agendas and largely sabotaged the investigation. An interesting lost opportunity.

10-translationsEspanolistos.  Among the many Spanish videos on the web, Spanishland School is my main online learning resource. I did their intensive course last year and I travelled to Colombia earlier this year with them for a 5 day immersion trip. I have paid to join their Parceros program which gives structure and damned good teaching, but Andrea also has many freely-available videos on YouTube and  Espanolistos is their free podcast. It’s all in Spanish and if you go to their website, you can get the transcript. This week’s episode 139, called 10 Translations has Andrea asking her American husband Nate to translate a number of sentences using the past tense. He might be married to the teacher, but she doesn’t let him get away with much.

Duolingo Podcasts (Spanish). This is an old one that has been floating around on my phone for about a year ‘Shakespeare en la Montana‘.  A young university graduate is infatuated with a fellow student and follows her up to the highest mountain in Venezuela where they work with village children in putting on a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, reinterpreted by the children. The Spanish in this podcast is very slow and very clear, supplemented by English commentary that makes it very easy to follow

Heart and Soul (BBC) When I was in Rwanda, I went on a walking tour of the Muslim district of Kigali, which had gained much more acceptance after the Muslim community generally refused to be involved in the genocide, and indeed even sheltered people from it. Unlike the Catholic Church. This episode, Rwanda’s Muslims 25 years after the genocide explores the increasing size of the Muslim population, many formerly of Christian origins, who were disgusted by the Catholic Church’s response and have been attracted by the evangelical-like techniques of newly converted Muslims.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 August 2019


Famine memorial, Dublin Source Wikimedia

In Our Time (BBC) I downloaded The Great Irish Famine months ago, and finally got round to listening to it today. My knowledge of the famine was largely shaped by Form Five British History back in 1972, and there have been advances in the historiography since then. Being BBC and all that, it was all very British (and not one word of Earl Grey’s Famine Orphan scheme to Australia that Trevor McClaughlin  has researched so extensively in his blog) but I couldn’t help thinking about ‘the caravan’ that has Trump so exercised. A very interesting episode- well worth a listen.

Today in Focus is the Guardian’s podcast service. While cleaning up all the saved podcasts that clog up my phone, I found this episode ‘Heroin and Me‘ where the Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer John Crace, talks about his heroin addiction when he was in his 20s. He’s the writer who coined the term ‘The Maybot’ to talk about Therese May (who doesn’t seem quite so bot-y now). This is John Crace, not the author Jim Crace, although as you’ll hear, confusion between John/Jim worked in his favour. It’s a very honest

Background Briefing (ABC) I seem to be listening to/reading quite a bit about public housing estates briefly. The Birdman of Surry Hills sounds quite a character, but he has certainly kept the NSW public housing authorities on their toes, taking them to the equivalent of VCAT over repairs to public housing. Mike Duncan is continuing with his backgrounding to the Russian Revolution by looking at Marxism and Bakunism (i.e anarchism). However, because there was an upcoming unavoidable break in his podcast schedule, he decided to add an additional episode before launching into the Russian Revolution on his return (not that this matters to me, as I’m always behind anyway). So, as a bit of an ‘extra’ in Episode 10.7 he returns to the Paris Commune of 1871, which he dealt with in Series 8 in May-June 2018.  Marx, Engels, Bakunin and the International were all around to see the short-lived Commune. In Episode 10.8 The Red and the Black, he discusses the difference between Marxism (Red) and Anarchism (Black). It’s a good summary, but you really need to have listened to the earlier episodes.

Spanish Obsessed. I’m feeling a bit as if I’m cheating on Spanishland School, which is my main online Spanish learning investment, but I’ve also found these podcasts too. They are all in Spanish, at about Intermediate level (which is me, I guess). This one Intermediate 27 The Earthquake is about Rob’s trip to Mexico, where he experienced an earthquake not once but twice in the same trip.